Amazon builts a waterproof Kindle
Amazon has been selling Kindles for 10 years now, but “waterproof” hasn’t appear on its list of incremental technological advancements until now. The company just announced a new version of its popular e-reader that builds on last year’s Kindle design and now has an IPX8 waterproof rating.
The new Kindle Oasis — the same name as last year’s premium Kindle — has jumped up in size, moving from a 6-inch screen to a 7-inch screen. It has an aluminum back, which gives it a more premium look and feel than the Kindles with soft-touch plastic.
Unlike last year’s Kindle Oasis, which used a magnetic case you attached to the e-reader to extend its battery life, the new Oasis relies entirely on its built-in battery. It has a similar physical design, with one thicker side that tapers down on the other side, for one-handed reading. But Amazon has made a point of saying that it managed to fit in a bigger battery, while keeping the tapered side of the device at 3.4 millimeters.
The resolution of the e-paper display is the same at 300 ppi, but it has a couple extra LED lights now for a brighter, more even-looking display. And it also has ambient light sensors that adjust the brightness as you move from room to room, or from outdoors to indoors. (The earlier Voyage Kindle does this, too.)
There are physical page-turn buttons, plus the touchscreen page-turn option; Amazon says it’s worked on both the hardware and software side of things to make page-turning feel faster.
But the big news with the upgraded Oasis is its waterproofing, a long-requested feature from some Kindle fans. (Yes, last year’s model was called Oasis and wasn’t waterproofed.) The new e-reader has been tested in two meters of water for up to 60 minutes. It’s also been tested in different water environments, like hot tubs, pools, and bubble baths. Amazon declined to say how it waterproofed the Kindle, but since it still has an open USB port for charging, it’s recommending that people stand the Kindle upright after it’s been submerged.
Audible fans will be happy, as well: the new Oasis has a built-in Audible app. This doesn’t mean you can listen to Audible from the Kindle itself — it still doesn’t have any speakers — but you can start an audio book from the device and stream it over Bluetooth to a set of headphones or a speaker.
The new Oasis ships at the end of October and is replacing last year’s Oasis, leaving four Kindles total in Amazon’s lineup: the original Kindle ($80), the Kindle Paperwhite ($120), Kindle Voyage ($200), and the Oasis, which starts at $250 for an 8GB model. That’s double the base storage of previous Kindles, which Amazon says is to accommodate the storage of audio books. It also connects over both Wi-Fi and 4G LTE.
Amazon has been notoriously coy when it comes to saying how many units of Kindle it has sold — which was the first piece of hardware Amazon ever made and sold — but Kevin Keith, Amazon’s general manager of devices, said in an interview that sales are still “quite good,” with “tens of millions” sold. He also noted that Kindle is in more countries than any other Amazon device.
“Kindle” has indeed become synonymous with “e-reader” over the past decade, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Amazon will enjoy the same kind of Kindle success over the next 10 years. In 2016, data showed that ebook sales were down, while sales of physical books surged. And in 2015, a Pew research report on American device ownership showed that e-reader ownership was down significantly from the year prior. According to non-Amazon data, it seems to have reached its peak in 2011.
But a spokesperson for Amazon said that Kindle is still as “relevant as ever,” pointing out that Kindle sales are up year-over-year globally and that it had its best-selling day ever on Prime Day of this year.
For now, at least, there’s a new Kindle you can drop in the bath, the hot tub, or wherever else you enjoy your ebooks when you need a break from the internet.
Update: This article has been updated to include more context on Kindle sales from Amazon. Also, the price of the new Kindle was reported incorrectly in an earlier version of this article. The story has been updated to reflect that it is listed as $249.99 ($250), not $248